Three months after Pierre Lebrun marched into Ottawa's OC Transpo bus garage, stoned on marijuana and pumping rounds from a loaded shotgun, one of his former co-workers quietly killed himself, out of shame at keeping quiet.
Mr. Lebrun, it seems, had come to him months before the shooting, speaking in crazy what-ifs about the bosses he wished dead. The two men had talked at length, even about the perfect place for an easy shot -- except that one of them wasn't joking.
On April 6, 1999, after he killed four men in just over five minutes, Mr. Lebrun's body was found seeping blood in a renovated loft on the second floor of the garage. It was the same place the men had talked about earlier, an open space above the engine room where a gunman might have luck picking off "managers" one by one.
Mr. Lebrun still had four cartridges stuffed in his shirt pocket when he fired the shotgun into his own chest. The engine room, by then, was empty.
"I feel guilty as hell for not telling anyone," wrote the man, whose suicide note was read -- in part and without a name -- at a coroner's inquest into the shooting yesterday. "Who was I to know if he would do it or not?"
It was the second suicide note introduced yesterday by the coroner's counsel, Al O'Marra; the first was the letter written to "Mom and Dad" by Mr. Lebrun himself -- an angry, delusional rant that makes clear there was far more wrong in his mind than, as his family has said, the taunts of co-workers who mocked his stutter.
From Mr. O'Marra, the five-member jury was given the chronology, as he expects the testimony to prove, showing Mr. Lebrun wandering from one room to another, spitting corny one-liners and shooting some people while letting others live for no apparent reason.
They learned for the first time that Mr. Lebrun, a bachelor with no criminal record, was struggling with depression. Toxicology tests show that on the afternoon of the shooting, he had consumed large amounts of marijuana.
Mr. O'Marra also told them what is already widely known, that Mr. Lebrun had complained repeatedly about his co-workers teasing him over his speech impediment, and that he had once slapped a man in the face for mimicking his stutter on the job. But that, Mr. O'Marra said, "was the only confirmed act of violence in Mr. Lebrun's past."
The jury -- which will sit through at least six weeks of testimony, including a 90-minute 911 recording -- then saw the crime-scene slides flashed on a giant screen, making the gaping, jagged bullet holes look that much bigger.
In the regional council chambers now doubling as a hearing room, about two dozen family members huddled silently in the first two rows. There is no legal finding of guilt or responsibility at an inquest; the wives and daughters filling the seats are here mainly to know what happened.
According to Mr. O'Marra, the shooting occurred this way: A few steps from where he'd parked his car, near the working supervisor's office, Mr. Lebrun brought his gun to his hip and fired the first shot. The bullet struck a steel drum, cut through a metal locker and a wall and lodged in a computer monitor. Standing next to the locker with two other men, Richard Guertin was hit by bullet fragments in the lower back and Joe Casagrande was hit in the chest. Both were injured, but both lived. They fled down the hallway, yelling for someone to call 911. A message went over the PA system that a man was in a garage with a loaded gun.
Mr. Guay was shot in the chest while he walked toward the supervisor's office. Mr. Lebrun "had to step over" him, Mr. O'Marra said, to walk down the corridor, through a controlled-access entry that had been popped open, and into the hoist bay, where a group of workers were taking their break in the back of one of the buses.
They watched Mr. Lebrun raise his gun and fire; this bullet, his third, pierced three layers of steel in a parts carousel and struck Harry Schoenmakers in the head, killing him.
Mr. Lebrun then stepped onto the bus, and with the .30-06 rifle slung across his chest, swore at the workers in the back. "You think it's funny now," he warned.
He walked out of the bay, and started a small fire in the chemical room, and took time to reload his gun. He then went down a hallway into the store office, where mechanics fetch parts, and where four men were sitting, unaware that a madman was prowling their workplace.
Mr. Lebrun entered the office cursing. Clare Davidson sat facing away from the office door; he took a fatal bullet in the back. "He's nuts," shouted David Lemay, trying to hide behind a set of lockers.
"What did you say?" Mr. Lebrun reportedly asked, and pumped his rifle and fired a bullet into Mr. Lemay's chest -- his fourth and last victim. "There's two less," he reportedly told the two men left alive in the office. "I'll go somewhere else."
He walked up the stairs to the loft that overlooked the engine room. About 15 seconds later, a bullet was fired. Mr. Lebrun had ended his own rampage, with ammunition remaining.
Excerpt from suicide note from July, 1999, of another OC Transpo worker:
I have been unable to sleep well since the shooting at OC. The gunman, Pierre, had talked with me to greater length about it, and where to be for a better shot at some managers.
As it turned out he shot himself at this location in the loft. I feel guilty as hell for not telling anyone. Who was I to know if he would do it or not? Pierre Lebrun's suicide note, left at his parents' house, April 6, 1999, the day of the shooting:
Mom and Dad, This is the most difficult letter that I have written during my life. I know that I'm going to commit an unforgivable act, and I'm going to cause you a lot of grief, but I have no choice.
I am tired, exhausted and completely backed against the wall. I fear for my life because of these retards from the union who are following me.
I am being followed, spied upon, humiliated from Vancouver, Kamloops, Kelowna and even Las Vegas -- yes, I went to Vegas. They will never leave me alone. I can't go on living like this. They have destroyed my life. I will destroy their life.
I'm not asking you to forgive me, or even to understand me, but I'm asking you to tell the truth to the whole world so this doesn't happen again to anybody. OC Transpo and the unions can't hide from what they do to me. I know that everyone will say that I'm crazy, but to the contrary I'm very intelligent, too intelligent.
They will pay dearly for what they've done to me. The people who I hold personally responsible are: Daniel Besserer - store supervisor, Mike Price - his assistant, Dave Westerman - personnel director, Richard White - my last boss, along with many others. Don't rely on anyone, not even Richard Cantin, who is the regional government.
Some people had tried to help me: Liz Callagan - the EAP [Employee Assistance Program] Lois Emberg - job equity officer of OC, Peter Newgard - equipment manager. Please send this letter to the media -- TV, radio, newspaper -- so they can tell the truth about me. I know that I have done things I should not have done. But all that I wanted was for them to leave me alone, not to bug me, but it was too much to ask.
They have spread lies, especially that I was a rat who denounced my own union members to try and have them stop laughing at me everywhere in North America. I never wanted it to come to this. But it was probably my destiny.
Your son who loves you a lot, Pierre